Recent research by the LGA has showed soaring demand to help safeguard children and funding pressures meant councils in England had to overspend on children’s social care budgets by a staggering £832 million in
Councils want to work with Government to ensure the best interests of the child and the voice of the child are at the heart of any recovery plan and that we play a leading role in the Government-commissioned independent review of the care system, alongside children, families, and partners.
I agree with the LGA in that this must include a long-term sustainable funding solution so councils can protect children at risk of harm.
And I am pleased that we are urging Government to reinstate the £1.7 billion removed from the Early Intervention Grant since 2010 to help prevent problems escalating early on.
More than eight in 10 councils in England responsible for children’s social care overspent in the year to 2019/20. This comes despite councils increasing their budgets by £535 million that year and by £1.1 billion
in the past two years. The number of children in care in England has increased from 64,470 in 2010 to 80,080 in 2020 – a 24 per cent rise.
This sharp rise in need for urgent child protection services in recent years has meant councils have been forced to divert limited resources from the early intervention and preventative services which help families and young people before they reach crisis point, into services to protect those at immediate risk.
Despite increasing budgets, councils are still having to cut universal and early help services, such as children’s centres and youth services, in order to prioritise spend on looked-after children and child protection services.
The LGA said councils fear the pandemic will further fuel demand for children’s services with councils having even less money available to help young people and families in need of support.
The demand on children’s social care services is unsustainable. Councils have increased their budgets for children’s services by diverting vital funds from other areas but due to spiralling demand for support, they are still overspending and we fear this will continue as pent-up demand due to the pandemic becomes clearer.
Supporting and protecting vulnerable children is one of the most important roles played by councils who want to ensure all children are safe, loved and can thrive. It is vital that children’s services are fully funded to give children the right help at the right time, which includes providing the early intervention and prevention support that can stop children and families reaching crisis point in the first place.
Terry Stacy MBE JP
Head of the Liberal Democrat Office
Local Government Association